27th Feb 2024

Moral qualms delay EU blacklist of Israeli settlers

  • Israeli soldiers with Palestinian captive in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in 2019 (Photo: breakingthesilence.org.il)
Listen to article

Talks about an EU visa-ban on 12 violent Israeli settlers have stalled amid objections this might put them on a moral par with Palestinian 'terror' group Hamas.

EU diplomats specialised in human-rights issues discussed the move at the EU Council in Brussels on Wednesday (24 January).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

But while there remained "broad support" for the project, the 27 experts opted not to bump the file to the next Council group in line, which specialised in Middle East affairs, diplomats said.

This came after objections by Israel's staunchest EU allies, the Czech Republic and Hungary, and amid wider qualms on the timing of the decision.

The EU proposal is to also blacklist more individuals from Hamas, which it has long-designated as a 'terrorist' entity, in the same bundle of sanctions.

Hamas killed some 1,200 Israelis and took 200 hostages in attacks on 7 October, with critics of the EU proposal saying it implied a false moral equivalence between Israeli settlers and Hamas.

Germany has said it backed the settler blacklist in principle, but voiced similar concerns as the Czechs on "the timing argument", an EU diplomat said.

Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, and Romania were "reluctant" for the same reason, the diplomat added.

Some played down Wednesday's "procedural" delay.

"Not all member states are fully convinced yet, but there haven't been clear vetoes either", a second EU diplomat said.

But others saw the stutter as a bad omen.

"It's quite unusual for anyone to block things at such an early stage in the process ... They [the EU Council groups] usually wave things through unless there's a substantive issue," a third EU diplomat said.

The EU anti-settler list is meant to cool escalation in the West Bank by naming and shaming some of the most dangerous Israeli protagonists.

It is also meant to chill settlement-expansion amid grand EU aspirations to broker a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict after the Gaza war ends.

And the Israeli blacklist is being deliberately bundled with the extra Hamas sanctions to show a more "balanced and neutral" European face to the Arab side, a fourth EU diplomat said.

Belgium, France, and the Netherlands, who jointly proposed the 12 Israeli names, are leading the push for speedy action.

French foreign minister Stéphane Séjourné said in Brussels on Monday he "hoped" the anti-settler sanctions would be agreed "in the next few days".

Belgium, which currently has the EU's six-month rotating presidency, announced a national-level ban on extremist Israeli settlers in December, building pressure.

"Belgium pointed out persons in this category, they cannot enter our country," a Belgian asylum and immigration ministry spokeswoman told EUobserver on Thursday.

And the EU-presidency holder voiced starkly different views to Germany in its original press communiqué on 8 December, when it said: "Just as members of Hamas on the EU terror-list are not allowed to enter our country, Belgium will also refuse entry to violent Israeli settlers".

For its part, the EU foreign service argued in a high-level memo in December that an EU-level settler ban as well as anti-Hamas action would "help preserve the viability of the two-state solution" and "the stability of the West Bank".

It also said Israel's "non-engagement" with the two-state solution should face "consequences" in its Arab-Israeli "Peace Plan", which was discussed by EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday.

"The French and the EU foreign service aren't relenting," despite Wednesday's subsequent pushback, one of the EU diplomats said.

Genocide case

Meanwhile, Israel has killed 25,700 Palestinians in Gaza since 7 October, prompting South Africa to bring a case of 'genocidal intent' at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, and a global moral debate of vastly bigger proportions than the EU angst on inappropriate settler-Hamas comparisons.

A surge in Israeli-settler attacks has also killed 10 Palestinians and displaced over 1,200 others in the West Bank since the Gaza war began.

And Israeli forces killed over 300 more Palestinians in the region — capping the most violent year in the West Bank's modern history.

The EU imposed its last round of anti-Hamas sanctions on 19 January, when it blacklisted six Middle East financiers for supporting the group.

It also said "inciting or publicly provoking acts of serious violence [against Israel] by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of, or in support of Hamas," could see the EU freezing assets and blocking visas in future.

The US, Israel's firmest ally, enacted an unprecedented travel ban on a few dozen Israeli settlers in December, but did so anonymously, like Belgium.

The closest the EU came to imposing sanctions on Israel was years before the Gaza war in 2013, when its guidelines halted EU grants to Israeli-settler entities.

The European Commission also recommended in 2015 that EU retailers put special labels on settler-made products, including well-known cosmetics and wine brands, so that European consumers could avoid them if they wanted to.

EU to blacklist people for pro-Hamas 'incitement'

"Inciting or publicly provoking acts of serious violence" against Israel "in support of Hamas" to be made illegal in EU, alongside a new blacklist of Hamas money-men in Lebanon and beyond.


For Ukraine's sake, pass the EU due diligence directive

The EU Commission's 2022 CSDDD proposal did not include provisions incorporating "conflict due diligence", they were added, after the Russian invasion, by the European Parliament and Council into the final directive text — for Ukraine's sake, vote for it.

Latest News

  1. MEPs slap three-month ban on foreign ads ahead of EU polls
  2. EU nature restoration law approved after massive backlash
  3. Memo from Munich — EU needs to reinvent democracy support
  4. For Ukraine's sake, pass the EU due diligence directive
  5. All of Orbán's MPs back Sweden's Nato entry
  6. India makes first objection to EU carbon levy at WTO summit
  7. Angry farmers block Brussels again, urge fix to 'unfair' prices
  8. Luxembourg denies blind spot on Nato security vetting

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us